The Southern Highlands has once again attracted internationally acclaimed culinary talent.
Paste - run by Bongkoch 'Bee' Satongun and Jason Bailey - has recently opened in Mittagong.
The Highlands restaurant is in addition to their Michelin-starred restaurant Paste Bangkok and Paste Laos.
While the pair are no strangers to opening a restaurant, it was much more difficult for them this time around.
Satongun said leading up to the opening last month they were unsure whether it would go ahead due to COVID-19 restrictions.
But the doors are finally open with locals and visitors all flocking to get a taste of Paste's famous Thai cuisine.
"With our restaurant in Bangkok, a lot of people in Australia already knew us, [and had] been to the Bangkok one. When they heard we opened, they wanted to come here," Satongun said.
"We've got a lot of local people that still remember us because we used to [have] a restaurant across the road."
After they closed their restaurant in the Highlands, the pair moved to Thailand and opened Paste Bangkok.
"We went there because I wanted to prove to myself, with my cuisine, that the flavour I'm cooking is actually correct [and] is going to hit the market," Satongun said.
They used royal Thai cuisine recipes, but changed it to their own style.
Flavour is of the utmost importance for Satongun, which she said came from using fresh ingredients.
"With the old Thai food they made everything fresh, like fresh coconut milk, fresh curry paste and then they made everything from scratch and that's what we're doing here as well," she said.
They were then chosen to work with one of Thailand's oldest and most respected food families.
"We got selected by them because of our flavour. They said it tasted like what they had been having. [The] Thai people, they [would] come in and [say] this is what they used to have when they were young because Thai food when I was young, it didn't taste like [what it does] now."
While moving to Thailand took Satongun back to her roots, opening a restaurant in Mittagong has done the same for Bailey, who was born and raised in the Southern Highlands.
Their creativity and craftsmanship in the kitchen has not only won over Thai people, but people across the world.
Some of the couple's signature dishes include traditional favourites given a new lease of life, such as a Massaman lamb curry with young Mhon Thong durian, to reinvigorated classics with regal beginnings, such as watermelon with ground salmon with fried shallots and roasted galangal powder that was served at the 1809 inauguration of King Rama I at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
With the global pandemic making life difficult for businesses around the world, Paste too has felt its effects.
The Bangkok restaurant reopened at the beginning of June while the one in Laos is still closed.
And for the Mittagong restaurant, it means the couple has had to put on hold some further plans for its interior.
They currently have about 120 wine labels and are aiming to increase that number to 400 with a wall of wine fridges along the back of the restaurant.
Satongun said they also wanted to create a lounge area for people to relax but all this will have to wait a little while.
"We want to be a comfortable, family style [restaurant]. We want people to come here with their family and friends and relax and they can have good food.
"That's what we're aiming for."
Visit https://www.pasteaustralia.com/ or email email@example.com to book.
- Michelin Star 2019 and 2018.
- Asia's Best Female Chef 2018 by World's 50 Best Restaurants.
- S.Pellegrino- Asia's 50 Best Restaurants 2019 and 2018.
- Leading Woman in Hospitality 2018 by Tourism Authority of Thailand.
- BK Magazine Top 10 Restaurants 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016.
- Thailand Tatler Top 10 Restaurants 2019, 2018, 2017.
- OAD Top 100 Restaurants Guide. Number 16 2019
- Black Pearl Restaurant Guide China 2019 by Meituan
- Thailand Chef Ambassador - Gault&Millau Guide
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